Got a question? The answer could be right here! Check through this list of questions and click on the question you need an answer to. These are the ones most often asked of us by home canners like yourself. For answers to any other questions or concerns you might have, just e-mail us. We’ll get right back to you.
What equipment will I need to can at home?
Either a large cooking pot or a water bath canner, or pressure canner, jars and lids, knives, long-handled spoons, saucepans, measuring cups, a colander, and scrapers. A few additional helpful aids are: A jar lifter, a jar funnel, a bubble freer, a timer.
What types of canners are available?
There are two basic types of canners: Steam Pressure Canners and Boiling Water Bath Canners. The Steam Pressure Canner method is used for foods containing very little acid, such as vegetables, meats, and seafood. We use this method to destroy bacteria and their by- products including salmonella, staphylococcus aureus and the bacterium that causes botulism, all of which can thrive in low-acid foods. That’s why these foods require the Steam Pressure Canning method that reaches a high temperature of 240ºF. The boiling water bath canner method is used for high-acid foods, including all fruits, tomatoes, sauerkraut and most foods to which vinegar has been added such as pickles and relishes.
Can a pressure canner be used for boiling water bath canning?
Yes, as long as the pressure canner can be utilized without pressure.
Why do I need to use a pressure canner instead of a boiling water bath canner on some items?
Low-acid foods, pH values higher than 4.6 include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables, with the exception of most tomatoes. Boiling water bath canner temperatures do not reach heat levels to destroy botulinum spores. Pressure canning is the only safe method of canning low-acid foods, since the internal temperature of the foods packed in the jars must be reach at least 240°F to 250°F. Pressure canners operated at 10 – 15 PSIG (pounds per square inch of pressure as measured by gauge) and higher to destroy botulinum bacteria.
What do the terms “Raw Pack”, “Cold Pack”, and “Hot Pack” mean?
“Raw Pack” is used interchangeably with “Cold Pack” and refers to putting uncooked food into a jar to which a hot liquid is added. “Hot Pack” means food is cooked to some degree before it is put into jars for processing. “Hot Pack” may require less processing time, since the food is already partially cooked.
Is home canning safe?
Unquestionably! In fact, home canning is much safer today than in Grandma’s day. If you follow directions carefully, you’ll always get delicious results with never a worry about spoiled food.
What is head space?
Head space is the space between the top of the produce and the rim of the jar. It is essential to have head space because it allows the food to expand during the canning process, thus creating a vacuum.
What kind of vinegar is best for canning?
Use a quality, commercially prepared, distilled white vinegar that has 5% acetic acid. Cider vinegar and malt vinegar can also be used but will darken the produce. However, malt vinegar imparts a delicate, sweet flavor and is desirable for many sweet pickle and chutney recipes.
Why is commercially bottled lemon juice recommended?
The acidity level in commercial bottled lemon juice remains consistent, whereas acid levels in fresh lemon may vary.
What kind of salt is best canning?
We recommend Mrs. Wages® Canning and Pickling Salt. It’s made for pickling. Other salts have anti-caking materials and may make the brine cloudy. Imitation salt varies in density and is not recommended for use in canning. Nor is it recommended to use reduced-sodium in fermentation recipes.
Does Mrs. Wages have a best if used by date?
On the side of every Mrs. Wages® pouch is an 8 digit code that you can use to determine when the product was produced, and you will find it stamped into packet, for example B2181A23. The B identifies the facility that produced the mix. The number, which follows, represents the last digit of the year the mix was produced, e.g., a 2 would indicate 2012. The next three numbers indicate which day out of 365 days in the year, the mix was produced. So if the number is 181, it means the product was mixed on June 29th as this is the 181st day of the year. The final 3 digits are used by Kent Precision Foods to indicate the batch code. For optimal performance, we recommend using Mrs. Wages® Pickle, Tomato, Fruit mixes and Fruit Pectins within 24 months of the day and year, it was produced.
What is a non-reactive pot?
When canning, we recommend stainless steel or enamelware because vinegar, which is an acid, attacks aluminum and dissolves the metal, forming undesirable compounds.
In the Forest Berry Pie Filling, how many cups of fruit do I need?
If you begin with 12 cups of fruit, you will have the appropriate amount for 3 quarts.
My recipes says to add lemon juice, can I use vinegar?
No, in recipes that request lemon juice – you must use lemon juice. Bottled lemon juice tends to be more acidic than vinegar. It also has less effect on the overall flavor of the product in which it is used. Equal amounts of bottled lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar in recipes calling for vinegar.
Are commercial pectins interchangeable?
No, commercial pectins are not interchangeable. Commercial pectin comes in liquid and powdered form. Both give satisfactory results, but the methods of adding the ingredients differ. So the powdered and liquid forms are not interchangeable. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recipes and instructions. Powdered and Liquid Pectin are not all the same. There are differences between them in the amount you need to add to the recipe, the amount of sugar you need to add to activate the pectin to create the gel, and the possibility of adding additional ingredients. For a recipe that calls for liquid pectin a powdered version is not interchangeable. Some recipes explain that the liquid version is always added after boiling and then not reheated back to a boil but immediately ladled into the sterilized jars. For jellies, liquid pectin is recommended because it readily mixes with hot liquids and it’s relatively clear. Powdered versions must be added then boiled again for some period of time to activate the gel.
Mrs. Wages offers three types of cooked pectins and a non-cooked: Mrs. Wages® Fruit Pectin Home Jell®, Mrs. Wages® Liquid Fruit Pectin and our Mrs. Wages® Lite Fruit Pectin Home Jell. Please note, Mrs. Wages® Lite Fruit Pectin Home Jell® is a special type of pectin making jelly or jam no added sugar or with less sugar than regular pectin recipes. Mrs. Wages® No Cook Freezer Jam is a quick and easy way of making jam. Just like the powder and liquid forms of pectin, this special type of pectin is not interchangeable. For proper set, please follow the directions or tested recipes and use the pectin type noted in the recipe.
Do I need special equipment to make jams and jellies?
You probably already have most of it. You’ll need a 6-quart to 8-quart saucepan, a jelly bag or cheesecloth, large metal spoon or skimmer, colander, timer, jar funnel, jar lifter, tongs, canning jars with 2-piece lids (lids and rings) and water bath canner or other large metal container with rack and cover.
What’s the difference between jellies, jams, preserves, marmalades and conserves?
Jellies are made of fruit juices and sugar and are jelled enough to be shimmering firm. No particles of fruit are seen in jellies. Jams are made from crushed or ground fruit and have enough jell to hold their shape. Preserves contain whole fruits or large pieces of fruit in slightly jelled syrup. Marmalades are clear jellies in which pieces of citrus or other fruits are mixed. Conserves consist of mixed fruits and citrus, with raisins and nuts.
Can I make jams and jellies that are sugar-free?
Mrs. Wages® Lite Fruit Pectin Home Jell® is special fruit pectin that does not require sugar to gel, so you can enjoy the true fruit goodness and fresh fruit taste of jam or jelly made with reduced sugar or with no added sugar. If you prefer, sweeten your jam or jelly with a non- sugar sweetener.
Will jam and jelly made with Mrs. Wages® Lite Fruit Pectin Home Jell® differ in consistency than jam and jelly made with Mrs. Wages® Fruit Pectin Home Jell®?
Yes, jelly made with less sugar, or sweetened with non-sugar products, will be less clear than regular jelly. This won’t affect its good, fruit flavor. You may see some “weeping” or surface moisture after jam or jelly has been opened and refrigerated. Small amounts of liquid won’t affect flavor or texture. It can be absorbed from jelly surface with a paper towel or stirred back into jam. Texture may change after refrigeration. You may notice a firmer set and a slight loss of spread ability. (Soft-set jam or jelly can be firmed by refrigerating.
What if my jelly doesn’t set?
Keep in mind that your jams and jellies could take up to two weeks to set. Don’t worry, there’s a solution. You can re-cook your jelly with a small amount of additional pectin. Partially set jelly should be given an extra day after it is made before it is re-cooked. It might just set up during that time. If not, re-cook 4 cups of jelly at a time. Mix 4 tsp of Mrs. Wages® Fruit Pectin Home Jell into 1/4 cup of water in a large saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring constantly. Add jelly and 1/4 cup of sugar. Stir thoroughly; bring quickly to a full, rolling boil. Boil 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove jelly from heat, skim, pour into clean, hot jars, seal and process 5 minutes in a boiling water.
I used Mrs. Wages® Fruit Pectin Home Jell® and the fruit separated to the top and jam to the bottom. How can I prevent this in the future?
Let the mixture cool a little (not more than 5 minutes) and start to thicken before filling the jars and processing in hot water bath. It usually helps keep the berries/seeds dispersed and prevent them floating to the top. Sugar falling to the bottom means it didn’t cook long enough to “melt” into the jam mixture. That 60 second full boil is scary, but necessary. Finally, 1/2 pints should boil in canner 5 minutes; then sit in the canner off heat another 5 minutes before removing.
I used Mrs. Wages® No-Cook Freezer jam. Is it supposed to have a soft set compared to cooked methods?
Yes, no-cook freezer jam will be a softer set than traditional cooked methods.
Can I use Mrs. Wages® Quick Process Pickle mixes with other vegetables, e.g., zucchini, squash instead of pickling cucumbers?
We would not recommend using the Mrs. Wages® Quick Process Pickle mixes with other vegetables other than what is listed in the directions. Remember, the level of acidity in a pickled product is as important to its safety as it is to taste and texture. Do not alter vinegar, food, or water proportions in a recipe or use a vinegar with unknown acidity. Use only recipes with tested proportions of ingredients, like those stated on the Mrs. Wages® pickle mixes. When making shelf stable pickling vegetables, recipes are with tested proportions of ingredients and there must be a minimum, uniform level of acid throughout the mixed product to prevent the growth of botulinum bacteria.
What if I do not have enough cucumbers to make 7 quarts, can I use a partial pouch?
We cannot advise that you try using only a portion of the Mrs. Wages® Quick Process Pickle mix. The challenge would be dividing the mix so that each batch contains the right proportion of herbs and spices, not to mention the safety issue if making shelf-stable. Better yet, make the entire mix up and store the remainder in the refrigerator for up to one week, or freeze for up to three months.
How can I save cucumbers until it’s time to pickle them?
For best results select fresh firm pickling cucumbers. If pickling cucumbers are soft – the end pickle will be soft and not crisp.
What causes soft or shriveled pickles?
A number of things, including:
Holding cucumbers too long after harvesting. They must be processed within one day of picking.
Growing conditions … either too wet or too dry.
Over processing. Preheat water in canner, while preparing food. Load filled jars, with fitted lids carefully. Lower rack into the boiling water and cover canner. Once water returns to a boil, start the time. Once process is complete remove lid, let jars stand in canner for 5 minutes, prior to removing. Do not leave jars to cool in water.
Cucumber varieties not suitable for pickling. Those varieties include burpless and slicing cucumbers.
Using cucumbers from poorly nourished or diseased plants.
Not packing the cucumbers tightly in jars.
Will Pickling Lime make the pickling cucumbers more porous to the syrup?
Based on the Mrs. Wages literature, nothing indicates that Pickling Lime makes the pickle/cucumber more porous.
I canned some pickles about a year ago and now there is a black cloudy haze in the jar. What is this and what causes it?
If properly sealed and processed, the discoloration may be from hard water or improper cleaning of the pickling cucumbers. Storage is just as important as processing. Properly sealed and processed jars should be stored in a clean, cool, dark, dry place. For best quality, store between 50 and 70 °F, and not above 95 °F. Jars should not be stored near hot pipes, stoves or furnaces, non-insulated attics, crawl spaces or garages, and not in direct sunlight. Food will lose quality in a few weeks or months and may spoil in these conditions. Remember dampness may corrode metal lids, break seals, and allow recontamination and spoilage. Avoid freezing – jars may become unsealed and contaminated. Before using a stored jar, check the vacuum seal on the lid. The center of the lid should be concaved and have no movement. Upon opening, if there is visible changes to the food or an odor, dispose of the food.
My pickles became spongy and shriveled. I used Sumter cucumbers and cross-country hybrid cucumbers, both of which are listed to be great for pickling. What causes this?
Over processing may be the issue. Preheat water in canner while preparing food. Load filled jars, with fitted lids carefully. Lower rack into the boiling water and cover canner. Once water returns to a boil, start the process time. Once processing is complete, remove lid, let jars stand in canner for 5 minutes, prior to removing. Do not leave jars to cool in water.
When should I add alum to my pickles?
Alum should only be added to your pickles if your recipe calls for it. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, alum does not improve the firmness of quick-process pickles.
Can I make refrigerator pickles shelf stable?
Yes, follow the direction, and then process pints 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner. Turn off heat, carefully remove canner lid, and let jars stand for 5 minutes in canner. Remove jars. Let jars sit undisturbed to cool at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s directions. If jars do not completely seal, refrigerate and consume within 1 week.
When do I start timing my pickles?
Make sure that the water in your water bath canner is at a hard rolling boil BEFORE placing your jars in the water. Start timing when the bubbles return. Longer processing times can lead to soft pickles.
Can I use Splenda instead of sugar?
If the recipe states SUGAR – then a sugar substitute should not be used. Suggest only to use tested recipes that list sugar substitutes as an alternative to sugar. Preserves and Pickled Fruits and Pickles. Do not use Splenda® or sugar substitutes in fruit preserves, pickled fruit and pickles where sugar is listed in the recipe. The sugar is needed to preserve the fruit for safety. Sugar also has preservation qualities as it draws moisture out of the food product and inserts sugar. Pathogens need water in which to thrive, and though a pickling solution is “wet,” the sugar interacts with the other ingredients to absorb the oxygen in the solution.
Can I use a pressure canner for my pickles?
No, all the Mrs. Wages mixes have been kitchen tested for water bath canning only. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, pickle products are subject to spoilage from microorganisms, particularly yeasts and molds, as well as enzymes that may affect flavor, color, and texture. Processing the pickles in a boiling-water canner will prevent both of these problems.
Can I use apple cider vinegar?
Yes, apple cider or white distilled vinegar, but the pickles may taste best with the recommended type in the recipe. Apple cider vinegar is milder and offers a different flavor note than white distilled vinegar. Any vinegar should be at least five percent acetic acid. Never use homemade vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice because the level of acid present is not known.
Can I add cornstarch to thicken my tomato product?
Do not thicken with flour, cornstarch, or other starches before canning. If a thicker sauce is desired, you can pour off some of the liquid and add these thickening ingredients after opening. The type of tomatoes will affect the end consistency of the finished product. For example, Roma tomatoes will produce a thicker sauce than slicing tomatoes.
Can I freeze tomatoes for canning, then make spaghetti sauce and re-freeze the sauce for use later?
We never recommend re-freezing for any reason. Thaw your tomatoes, make your sauce, store it in the coldest part of your refrigerator, and use it to make delicious fresh pasta the first chance you get!
Why does some of the Mrs. Wages® canning mixes use food starch?
The food starch is a commercial grade food starch, designed to provide excellent consistency in our recipes. Regular cornstarch will not have the same consistency and will have poor heat penetration. This is why flour or cornstarch is not recommended when canning.
How many cups of fresh tomatoes equal 6 pounds?
1 pound tomatoes (about 3-4 medium) equals 1 1/2 cups seeded pulp, so approximately 10 cups, prepared fresh tomatoes.
Can I pressure can my salsa using Mrs. Wages® Salsa?
All our Mrs. Wages canning mixes are developed using only the water bath canning process and we do not offer pressure canning instructions at this time. The basic guidelines of safe home canning are to use only tested recipes, and follow the directions in those recipes exactly. Without the ability to determine the proper pH, density, or processing time when adjustments are made to a recipe the risk level rises sharply. Those points are especially important with salsa since it is eaten fresh from the jar with no added cooking to destroy toxins. Pressure canning may result in soupy texture.
Why do you need to add citric acid when canning tomatoes?
For safety, adding Mrs. Wages® Citric Acid will ensure the proper acidification in your whole, crushed and tomato juice. Add the citric acid directly to jars prior to fill.
For pints: add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid For quarts: add 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid
Can I add more onions or peppers to Mrs. Wages® Salsa before water bath canning?
While it might be tempting to add other ingredients when canning with Mrs. Wages® products, we advise against doing so. Mrs.
Wages mixes have been carefully tested to not only deliver delicious flavor, but to ensure that the proper acidity (or pH) level will be met in the finished canned product, thereby ensuring food safety. Adding additional ingredients could potentially alter this acid balance and impact both the processing method and/or time needed to guarantee food safety. So for this reason, we respectfully ask that you follow the package directions as they are written when processing products using Mrs.Wages products. The only changes you can safely make in this salsa recipe are to substitute bottled lemon juice for the vinegar. Spices and herbs may be added, minimally, if you feel this is necessary.
Are there directions for canning the Bloody Mary mix?
Follow the directions as stated on the Mrs. Wages® Bloody Mary Mix to prepare your tomatoes. If you plan on water-bath canning the tomato juice, for safe acidity, we recommend adding Mrs. Wages Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice to each pint or quart prior to filling jars with juice, ½-in. headspace.
Pints: Add 1/4 teaspoon of Mrs. Wages Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice – Process time 1000 ft 35 min
Quarts: Add 1/2 teaspoon Mrs. Wages Citric Acid or 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice – Process time 1000 ft – 40 min